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Firefox 3.5 Speed Freak: Faster Development, Faster Performance - page 2

Users Get More Than They Clamored For

  • June 9, 2009
  • By Sean Michael Kerner

Firefox 3.1 was initially supposed to be just a bunch of small fixes to Firefox 3 and open video. Along the way the scope changed. Mozilla developers added in the new TraceMonkey JavaScript engine, which is a competitive effort to Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) V8 and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) Safari's Nitro JavaScript engines.

"TraceMonkey was a task that, based on our traditional models of execution, would have taken us a year to a year and a half to implement," Beltzner said. "We realized that we've gotten way better at producing software as an open source organization, so we re-scoped and decided that there was no reason to rush out a version of Firefox that was not compelling, so let's make Firefox 3.5 fantastic."

Beltzner said the development process at Mozilla has improved just since Firefox 3.0 was built. There is improved communication with greater use of wikis and other collaborative tools. Mozilla has also improved its Tinderbox system for build and test tracking.

"A lot of the changes to our speed have also been around how we act as a community around software development because we know that development is happening 24 hours a day, and if you don't have good communications mechanisms and processes it's not going to work out," he said.

With 3.5 looking like a compelling upgrade, the question arises, why didn't Mozilla just name the new browser Firefox 4?

Beltzner noted that users have expectations about software and naming changes those expectations. For example, people expect Windows Vista to be different than Windows XP because they have different names.

"I think people expect Firefox 4 to look and be a huge difference in the way they interact with the browser compared with Firefox 3," Beltzner said. "Firefox 3.5 is a decidedly better browser than Firefox 3, but your primary way of interacting with the browser is the same. So we wanted to set the expectation that this is a fantastic upgrade, but it's not going to break your world."

 

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